A cult is loosely defined as a small group of people who have a devotion to one leader or object. If you think about it this way, a lot of big religions begin to feel like a cult. The difference is, there’s usually a bit more nefarious activities taking place within a cult. Organized religion no doubt has its fair share of strange or immoral decisions, however, cults are known to take religious devotion to the extreme. Cults exist and operate everywhere around the world, and attempting to find all the cults and track their behavior is almost impossible. Many cults remain secretive so as to not expose their macabre practices.
Despite various cults' attempts to remain out of the limelight, some are so strange or peculiar that they can’t help but expose themselves. Some cults we only hear about after they’ve vanished. What goes on in the brain of cult leaders and follows remain a mystery to those who function outside the group. It seems as though you would be able to tell if you were in a potentially dangerous cult, but to the members of the society, they feel as though we’re the strange ones. It’s challenging to figure out why tragedies around cults have to happen, but by learning about and studying behaviors that seem strange to us, we can begin to understand them.
Here are 15 Of The Most Chilling Images Taken Of Cults.
15 Islamic Feminist Cult
When some of us picture Islam, we might be under the belief that the women are oppressed. While this is true in some areas and levels of the religion, not all women suffer. One cult exists within Islam that attempts to be a feminist movement and rejection of the strict rules some women have to follow. As you can see from the women in the photograph, they reject the traditional Islamic dress including the headscarf women are usually seen wearing. Instead, they choose to dye their hair blonde and wear trendy clothes and makeup styles. In an attempt to be free from oppression, however, under their strange male leader, they still carry some of those same ideas that keep women oppressed in the first place. The woman in this cult don’t really have a choice as to whether or not they’re allowed to wear makeup, it’s just expected. While some may believe taking a hijab off means a woman is no longer oppressed, this cult shows the opposite. They are very secretive and don’t reveal much to how they operate, keeping them all the more mysteriously creepy.
14 Heaven's Gate - Suicide
While what happened in Jonestown was absolutely tragic, unfortunately, it was not the only cult to convince its followers to partake in a mass suicide. The photograph above shows just two of the lives that were taken in the name of a disturbing cult. The members who were in Heaven’s Gate believed that committing suicide at the right moment would allow them to board a spacecraft run by aliens that was hiding behind a comet about to pass Earth. The comet was real and is known as Hale-Bopp. However, whether or not these members are now mingling with extraterrestrials is something we’ll never have a sure way of knowing. They believed our human bodies were mere vessels and just a temporary step towards something greater. Many religions believe this, however, most religions don’t convince their members to take their own lives. Unfortunately, many people also committed suicide under the belief that the world was to be destroyed once the comet passed, another manipulative tool they were led to believe by their terrifying leader.
13 Heaven's Gate - Leader
The image above isn’t a photograph but rather a video that we chose to share because a picture alone isn’t enough to showcase how terrifyingly creepy the leader of Heaven’s Gate was. His name was Marshall Applewhite, and within the first few moments of his introductory video into the cult, he mentions taking your own life as the only answer. There are three parts to the video and they were discovered on the cult’s website, which, terrifyingly, still exists today. Marshall was a science fiction writer who also had a knack for controlling people and making them believe ridiculous ideas about alien abduction. He actually took out an insurance policy for alien abductions before the suicide. The insurance would cover costs in case of alien abduction, impregnation, or death. Of course, insurance policies are bogus with no way to prove any of it is real. The reality was, instead, that all of these people believed this creepy man enough to take their own lives.
12 Heaven's Gate - The Aftermath
By the time the bodies were found at the California mansion where so many people decided was their final resting place, the bodies had begun to decay. After post-mortem investigations were conducted, it was concluded that they too had died from poison as well as putting plastic bags over their heads for asphyxiation. All of the members wore the same clothing, same Nike shoes, and covered themselves with the same purple blanket. The members died between three different days with a total of 38 lives taken. From this photograph, we can get an idea of the tragic scene that these people had to clean up. From the last entry, it’s confusing as to how anyone would let that man in the video convince them to take their lives. It’s that element of mind control that makes Marshall Applegate all the more terrifying.
11 The Order Of The Solar Temple
The Order of the Solar Temple is a religious group that popped up in the early 80s with members who believed Jesus would have a second coming as a Solar-God. Like most cults, they had an interest in taking over the world and maintaining rule and order over all people. They had an interest in not only reviving Christianity but attempting to smooth their differences with Islam as well. It sounds harmless, but the reality is that they were also responsible for mass suicides and murders in the 90s. 15 members committed suicide in two small villages in Switzerland, murdering 33 others. Among the murdered were nonmembers and innocent children. The cult is still around today, but there haven’t been any additional mass murders or suicides linked to the group since the brutal killings that occurred in the 90s. A photograph of a cult so vicious and brutal like this is absolutely terrifying.
10 Jonestown - Mass Suicide
Before 9/11, the photograph above pictures one of the largest intentional deaths to American citizens. Over 900 people committed mass suicide at their leader Jim Jones' command. The suicide was supposed to showcase a resistance to capitalism and devotion to socialism. Looking at a photograph like the one above is absolutely terrifying in that it showcases the power that one man’s manipulation can have over such a large group of people. This wasn’t just a man who was popular and had a lot of people who followed him. The followers were people so blind to the truth and devoted to his word that they felt they could trust him enough to believe that taking their own lives was the answer. This isn’t the only devastating photograph we have from Jonestown, unfortunately. With such a huge event that we still talk about today, there’s a lot behind Jonestown that is absolutely heartbreaking.
9 Jonestown - Nursery
It was planned by all the members and over a third of the lives lost in the mass suicide were lost by children. Luckily, the photograph above shows the children when they were alive and staying at the camp’s nursery while the parents built houses and other buildings for the commune they lived on. Unfortunately, children were part of the mass suicide that took place at Jonestown. Children not old enough to feed themselves were fed syringes filled with poisonous Kool-Aid. They suffered the same fates that every member around them did even though they weren’t old enough to believe one man’s lie. Their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and the rest of the adults around them all willingly partook in the mass suicide. However, those who managed to escape and survive the massive loss of lives stated that it wasn’t a suicide at all, rather, a mass murder.
8 Jonestown - The Kool-Aid
It was believed that since everyone drank the Kool-Aid spiked with cyanide pictured above, it was a mass suicide. However, there were several members who were there at the time the deaths were taking place and hid under and in buildings to avoid having to take their own lives. Some witnesses stated that the members were under duress, or the belief they may be in harm, not able to make clear decisions for themselves, which is why many of them took their lives. However, suicide notes were found for some that stated they had planned this for some time. The cyanide-laced Kool-Aid took about five minutes to kill whoever took it, and they didn’t need a very large amount. Once people started taking it and those who hadn’t yet drank it began seeing the effects, they were reluctant to go through with the suicide. However, Jim Jones continued to convince them that taking their own life was better than living in this world. Witnesses and recordings of the event tell a story of people screaming as the poison took their last breaths.
7 The Manson Family
The photograph above shows just three of the members of Charles Manson’s brutal cult known as The Manson Family. The cult was responsible for taking the lives of several celebrities, with a hit list much longer than the lives they were actually able to take. Charles Manson never murdered anyone himself, but he was certainly responsible for convincing the young and vulnerable minds of his members to do so. The girls above performed vicious and brutal acts on innocent people taking helpless lives, but they seem pretty joyous and unattached from the tragedies they’ve caused. His members were so brainwashed that they show little remorse for the nefarious acts they’ve participated in. many of the members are also known to wear x’s on their heads to show that they are not part of our society. Although these girls were punished for their crimes and the few on the list who are sitting behind bars, this picture of them is still absolutely frightening.
6 The FLDS Polygamist Cult
The FLDS is one of the largest polygamist cults that is still operating within our country today. Polygamy is the practice of taking more than one spouse, most commonly used to oppress women and allow a man to take multiple wives. The photograph above shows the many wives of their disgusting leader, Warren Jeffs. It is believed within this terrifying society that a man is to take as many wives as he possibly can, the more wives meaning the godlier he is. It is then a woman’s responsibility to “keep sweet,” be as submissive as possible, and have as many children as possible. What ends up happening is that the men are left with more family members to take care of and the women have to suffer to take care of 5+ children with little to no support from the man that caused all the trouble. While their traditional values are unsettling to us, that’s not even a terrifying part of the cult.
5 The FLDS Leader With His Child Bride
In our society, it’s illegal to get married before you’re 18 without a parent’s permission, and even then it’s seen as a bit young to get married. In the FLDS society, the younger you can marry a girl, as long as she’s begun menstruating, the better. Warren Jeffs is currently sitting in prison for the rape and abuse of several teenage girls that he married and impregnated. Above is him with one of his young wives before he was caught. While the people within the society see it as an honor for their young daughters to be married to the leaders, to us, it's absolutely grotesque. The FLDS has over 10,000 members, a number that’s challenging to keep track of. Luckily we’ve been able to capture their evil leader and punish him for life for his disgusting crimes. This cult is still operating today, however, and who knows for sure what abuse may exist within their terrifying society.
4 Children Of God
Without any context, the photograph above might seem to be a group of young people enjoying an outdoor performance of some sort. In reality, it is a terrifying worship inside an infectious cult. The cult is known today as “the family,” but “children of God” was the original name. Not much separates this cult from many common sects of Christianity in regard to what they believe and the messages they wish to spread. The way they operate and go about their daily practices is what really makes them a terrifying cult. They gained so many members in the beginning with a method called “flirty fishing,” in which current members would lure new members in with sex. It is estimated that the young female members had sex with over 200,000 people they believed were potential recruits. This also included many minors, as the church didn’t really believe that there was an age limit on who was allowed to have sex or not.
3 The KKK - Female Members
The KKK is a terrorist cult that operates in our society today. The group doesn’t have nearly as many members as it used to, but it still manages to exist and gain attention in our country today. Aside from their gross racism and years of hate crime, one of the creepiest parts about the Klan is their uniform. They’re often seen wearing white capes and hoods in an attempt to disguise their appearance. They believe maintaining anonymity is crucial in living a normal life free of public shame. It seems hypocritical for them to hide behind white blankets if they really believe what they’re doing is just and true. Even though the KKK members believe in a patriarchal society and don’t care about women’s rights, they still have a long history of having a handful of female members, pictured above. A photograph like this is truly something taken out of a nightmare.
2 The Ku Klux Klan
Imagine walking through the woods in the middle of the night and stumbling upon a terrifying image such as the one above. These men are responsible for brutal hate crimes, lynching, and hangings of various innocent black lives throughout our American history. The KKK actually started as a democratic organization in response to the Republican’s re-organization of the government after the war. It has remained a symbol of hatred and racism in our current society, though they preach it’s more about being anti-government. Their past with abuse towards people of color tell a different story, and the fact that they burn crosses is a hint that they aren’t as peaceful as they pretend to be. They argue they are not a terrorist group, but for this cult to create terror among oppressed groups for years and to pretend they don’t is absolutely terrifying.
1 The Church Of Scientology
The image above is the headquarters for the religion of Scientology, a toxic cult that’s infamous for its celebrity members. The church of Scientology has many erratic beliefs, but what makes it one of many terrifying cults is its measure of secretiveness in how it operates and what their goals are. Many ex-members have horror stories of various abuse and manipulation tactics among members, however, they don’t usually comment on these stories or if they do, they claim every bit of it are lies. There aren’t many photos that exist that show the inner workings of the cult, but by just looking at the building in which they call their home, it’s absolutely terrifying. It looks like something straight out of a superhero movie and would serve as the lair for an evil villain. The fact that they are able to have so many members and maintain relevance in our culture is frightening.
Sources: Heavensgate.com, Broadly.vice.com, Wikipedia.org